Episode one of the new season opens with a night-fishing scenario in which two guys, one white and one black, discuss their anxiety on the water, and a buried past comes to the surface. The Black guy proposes they call it a night as the two men gaze out into the dark seas. “Hey, dude,” he adds, “I guess it’s about time we drag it up out of here.” “Yeah, that might be,” the white guy says, willing to go once his drink is finished. The Black guy proceeds to recount a painful childhood experience of almost drowning in the lake as they wait, lacking urgency in their intentions to depart. “Man, this location always gave me the creeps,” he admits. He continues, “I nearly drowned in [the sea] when I was, like, 8,” and that he “felt like [he] was being dragged.” The white guy, unsurprised, claims that he was really being dragged.
The white guy assures him, “It’s a whole town underneath us.” “This whole lake was once a village.” There are houses, farms, highways, and even a racetrack down there. The state government constructed a dam and drowned the area. He continues, “Anyone who didn’t leave drowned.
” “Town was Black, guy… a self-governing Black town,” says the narrator. As the knowledge ishes over him, the Black guy stops. “So, there are Black people beneath us right now?” he asks, more as a statement than a question, to the white guy. “There are a lot of people down there.” The other guy answers, “That’s what brought you under.” As he speaks of the buried city, the lake’s dark history, and the blinding affects of whiteness, his voice muffles and his eyes vanish. “We’re cursed, too,” the white guy adds as a swarm of dark-skinned arms emerges from the sea and drags the Black man down into the depths.
Is anybody else getting Lake Lanier thoughts from this article of a flooded Black town? As its host, a young kid called Loquareeous, wakes up from a slumber at his middle-school desk, it fades into a horrible dream. The dream of a Black Atlantis is quickly replaced by the “Change Atlanta” effort, a programme sponsored by the Atlanta Falcons Domino’s Pizza to “highlight my Black heritage in the curriculum” as he wakes up. The instructor reveals that the first field trip for the programme will be to watch Black Panther 2. Loquareeous is so excited about his intentions that he starts dancing on his desk as his mostly white classmates cheer him on. The instructor cries above the din of the classroom, “Loquareeous, sit down,” as students knock on their desks to keep time with him. Loquareeous’ vibrance is, as one would anticipate, fleeting. His mother and father are summoned to the school to deal with his “disruption.” His mother is irritated, and she instructs the Black principal to urge the instructors to give him detention like any other troubled student.
The white school counsellor, who is also in on the conference, acknowledges her acquaintance with Loquareeous from past occasions when his outbursts in class landed him in her office, and argues that his conduct might imply a need for academic detention. Loquareeous’ mother is irritated by the notion and flatly rejects it in favour of her previous choice. As the counsellor watches, she and the grandpa drag Loquareeous to the side and compel him to dance as punishment. His mother warns him about the high costs of his actions while the kid whips and Nae Naes on the edge of tears. “These white people are going to murder you if you don’t start using your common sense and start acting appropriately,” his mother cries. “Yeah, you’re laughing with them now, but when you’re dead or in prison, they’ll be the only ones laughing.” The youngster is slapped three times across the face by his grandpa, who is a man of few words. The counsellor is taken aback and stares on in disbelief. As she escorts Loquareeous back to class, she says him, “Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of there.”
The events that follow are a succession of misfortunes (shout-out to my fellow Lemony Snicket fans!).
Following the white counselor’s complaint of Loquareeous’ mother, Atlanta’s Family and Children Services arrive at the home with officers in tow to conduct a welfare check, and his mother, outraged and sure of her son’s role in reporting her, sends the kid off with the authorities. Loquareeous is brought to a new home by his caseworker, where he is welcomed by Amber, a slow-talking Caucasian lady in a flowing skirt who informs Loquareeous that he may call her “Mom” (strike one!). Loquareeous meets his “new siblings,” three Black youngsters called Lanre, Yves, and Fatima, at the house, which smelled like homemade kombucha (strike two!). Gail, Amber’s wife, steps in as she’s talking Loquareeous about how she’s making olive-oil shampoos and pickling every vegetable known to man.
Gail is frigid, hard, and strict, in contrast to Amber, who is immensely quirky and chatty yet dizzyingly unstable. She refuses Amber’s offer to Loquareeous to call them both “Mom” right away, and she makes it obvious throughout the episode that she would eliminate everyone or everything that gets in her way, even her adopted children. Loquareeous has been struggling to acclimate to his new home for what feels like weeks, where uncooked chicken is microwaved (strike three!!! ), no one knows what a washcloth is, and his adoptive mother has given him the name Larry.
Loquareeous despises his new home and starts to watch his mother-captors intently as he waits for his chance to go. Gail and Amber begin to deny the children food as funds get tighter, forcing them to work in the family garden while hungry. “We didn’t have lunch,” Loquareeous shouts out, kneeling down in the dirt and whining about his hunger. “You’re meant to be hungry,” says the narrator. Amber says, “If you’re full, that indicates you ate too much.” She urges the youngsters to sing a song to assist them concentrate on their job, as she takes sick delight in seeing them toil. Loquareeous starts singing NBA YoungBoy songs innocently. He sings, “I feel like I’m Gucci Mane in 2006.” Amber interrupts him, laughing, and proposes that he sing something like to a Negro spiritual.
Amber and Gail have the kids wear “free hugs” placards in front of the family’s kombucha stall at the local farmers’ market. When Loquareeous sees a white officer, he escapes and attempts to obtain aid, but rapidly discovers that he has no supporters. He tells the officer, “They make me sleep in a storage closet,” as he embraces him tightly. When his moms arrive to get him, the officer pushes him away and rejects Loquareeous’s fears. The officer tells the ladies, “I guess he’s simply weary.” Amber tells the policeman, “All four of our children are Black, so we always make sure to teach them that the cops are their friends.” The photo of Loquareeous embracing the officer is shown on the main page of a local newspaper with the heading “Free(dom) Hugs.”
If you haven’t noticed the similarities yet, Loquareeous’ storey is eerily familiar precisely because it is based on the true storey of Devonte Hart and his five foster siblings — Ciera, Abigail, Jeremiah, Hannah, and Markis — a group of Black children in foster care who were murdered by their adoptive white mothers Jennifer and Sarah Hart in a murder-suicide in Mendocino County, California, in 2018, after years of abuse. Devonte’s corpse was never found, despite the fact that he was assumed killed along with his foster brothers.
In line with the grisly plot, the fictitious Amber and Gail perform the same acts of violence as the real-life women who inspired them. Gail puts the plot in action after antagonising Loquareeous for being a “snitch” and subsequently vanishing a Black caseworker who comes by to do a wellness check and learns the children are sick. Amber feels agitated and nervous, yet she remains loyal to her nasty wife.
Loquareeous knows this irregular expedition is a terrible omen when she lies and tells the children they are going on a vacation to the Grand Canyon. “Where are we actually going?” he wonders. The solution is unstated. With their gaze, the youngsters in the rear of the family minivan communicate with one another. Loquareeous, sensing impending dread, sends across a glance that screams, “These white ladies are going to murder us.” The other children, who have lived at the house longer than he has, are not alarmed. “We know,” replies one of his brothers, a knowing grin on his face. Another says, “Sweet relief.” Fatima whimpers, “My hair aches,” without opening her lips. After a quick pit break to let their dog Cornpop out, the adoptive moms decide on their children’s futures after a brief discussion. “What will happen to these kids if we don’t protect them?” “They’re going to go back into foster care, and they’re simply going to release them in the wild like Cornpop; we’d just be postponing the inevitable,” Gail maintains, explaining to her wife why they must carry out the plan. Amber whines from the driver’s seat, “I don’t believe I can do this.” Gail warns her not to look back. As Amber drives the vehicle over the precipice, Gail sees Loquareeous roll out the trunk before the rest of the family perishes. As the van sinks, Loquareeous looks over the bridge and goes home, where he discovers a key under the doormat and rejoins his mother.
Loquareeous’ narrative ends like a dream inside a dream, just as the collapsing village awoke him from his slumber. Earn, Atlanta’s leading man, awakens, and Loquareeous fades away into the dreamscape. Isn’t life just a nightmare?